For Every Sin There is a Virtue

February 14th. It’s a date that resonates all around the world. Valentine’s Day is universally recognised as the day for lovers to be together. It is a day for romance, tenderness, and love. It wasn’t always so. Romantic love and Valentine’s Day are not formed out of ancient history or pagan rites and only came together when Geoffrey Chaucer, in 1382, wrote Parlement of Foules.

For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,

when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.

We are not about to go on a nature trail of avian dating and mating habits nor, having done all the research, a history of Valentine’s Day. Mostly, that was boring. Chaucer kicked it all off. End of story.

There is a lot of mythology starting with the Romans, and then it is far more associated with lust than love. The names of young Roman girls were thrown into a hat for the young men to choose a partner for erotic games. In today’s politically correct world I don’t intend to comment on that although the stories you may have heard of swinging parties and car keys in a bowl, do have an ancient history!

In the series I wrote on the Seven Deadly Sins love and lust were combined, and I suggested that lust was not a sin if matched with love ( )

But, if lust is a sin, then love is its complimentary virtue and I wondered if every one of the sins was matched by a virtue. It wasn’t hard to find the answer. Philosophers, the spiritual and the religious have all had a say on the virtues we should aspire to – more so it seems than the range of sins we can commit.

The Seven Contrary Virtues are specific opposites to the Seven Deadly Sins while the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy are a medieval list of things you can do to help others. Bushido, the code of honour and morals developed by the Japanese samurai, has its own Seven Virtues.

When Pope Gregory defined the seven deadly sins he kindly also included a counter-balancing set of virtuous values.

  1. Faith, is a belief in the right things.
  2. Hope, is taking a positive future view, that good will prevail.
  3. Charity, is a concern for, and the active helping of, others.
  4. Fortitude, is never giving up.
  5. Justice, is being fair and equitable with others.
  6. Prudence, is care of and moderation with money.
  7. Temperance, is moderation of needed things and abstinence from things which are not needed.

For the biblical scholars among you, the first three are a slight variation on St. Paul’s trio of Love, Hope and Faith and are known as the Spiritual Virtues. The others are called the Chief or Natural Virtues. Greek philosophers had already defined these.

Now a sinful confession. I enjoyed writing the series on the Seven Deadly Sins and so now is the time for penance and I will be covering all the virtues over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, with all the thoughts of Valentine’s Day still fresh, and, although out of sequence, I can start a little early with an initial thought on love. Heard at weddings all over the country these words of St Paul are still the best for a Valentine’s Day.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous. 

Love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly. 

It does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Of course, there will be more on a later day but as I wish all of you my best for the day, I hope you will allow me a moment of personal indulgence: Sasha, I love you. Every day with you is Valentine’s Day.